It is surprising how many women today are unfamiliar with the medicine ball as a standard piece of gym equipment, especially since it can make such a difference in the effectiveness of one’s workout routine.
Medicine ball exercises are a convenient and versatile way to boost strength, power and flexibility, not only for men but for women as well.
Cavewomen of the past had to lift and manipulate heavy objects almost daily. Doing so has fitness benefits not only for the muscles doing the lifting, but also for the core muscles that are forced to work harder to maintain stability and form.
The variety of exercises you can do while incorporating medicine balls is virtually unlimited, but here are a few of the best moves—ones that cater specifically to women’s unique fitness needs.
Medicine Ball Jackknife – Lie on your back while holding the medicine ball with your arms outstretched above your head. Raise the ball and your feet simultaneously until they meet in the middle with your body forming a “V shape”. Go back to your starting position and repeat. This is a great way to strengthen both your abs and hip flexors.
Toss and Lunge – This requires a bit of coordination, but can be easily mastered with a little practice. Stand up straight, holding the ball at chest level. Toss the ball up in the air (not too high) and slightly in front of you. Step forward with your right foot and drop down into the lunge position, so that you catch the ball on its way down as you move. Repeat with the other leg and do as many reps as you can manage. The key is to move quickly while keeping your eye on the ball. This exercise strengthens and tones your hamstring and gluteus muscles while the addition of the medicine ball challenges your core muscles and hand-eye co-ordination. Note: lunges can leave your hamstrings quite sore the next day, so start with a low number of reps and gradually increase them.
Side Kick – Hold the ball at chest level while standing up straight. Lift your left knee until it is parallel with your waist and then kick to the side while simultaneously pushing the ball in front of you. This exercise is a real challenge to your core muscles.
Medicine Ball Throws – This is a great exercise for toning your arms and shoulders. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle and feet on the floor. Hold the ball at shoulder height and use both hands to simply toss the ball up in the air and catch it when it comes down.
Medicine Ball Squats – Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and holding the ball at chest height. Drop down into squat position and hold it for as long as you can. It’s important not to drop too low on these; it can stress you knees if you drop below a 90-degree angle. This exercise is great for toning your thighs and hips.
As with all exercise routines, the key is to start with a level of resistance that you can comfortably manage and then gradually increase the difficulty of your program as your fitness improves. If a standard 10-pound ball seems a bit heavy at first, try exercising with an 8-pound ball and work your way up.
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